T Sale's Blog

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

21C Session 10-3-06

I found both parts of today’s 21C session interesting and useful. Our meetings always make me wish that every teacher could have the time that we do to share ideas and think about our teaching. It’s so valuable to get a little reanimating jolt so that our bodies can be out roaming the land terrorizing the villagers rather than just lying on a slab in the laboratory. (Got a little carried away with the Frankenstein allusion there, but it’s October and Halloween is coming up.) Anyway, if this is the kind of interaction that our PLC time will allow, I’m all for it.

Every discussion we have about constructivism is helpful, and today was no exception. We explored a pretty good range of concerns, from assessment to accountability to the definition of rigor. It does feel at this point as if we’ve been introduced to constructivism over and over again. The article we discussed seemed to define constructivism by pointing out what it’s not, and our discussion sometimes circled the topic like timid warriors trying to count coup but not quite making contact. I’m craving some solid examples of good constructivist lessons, something definite to hang on to. But maybe constructivism is a sort of Zen pursuit: if you have to ask what it is, you haven’t yet constructed the understanding necessary to approach it.

The grading discussion with Tony Winger was also interesting. Having been a part of the grading project last year, I expected Tony’s talk to be pretty much a review, but this was Winger 2.0; he’s evolved. The simplified grading categories of understanding, knowledge, skills, and learning support seemed elegant to me, especially after the complicated systems some of us invented last year. The discussion reinforced for me the most important aspect of the grading discussion – not what the categories should be, but the idea that whenever you make an assignment, you need to ask yourself “Why am I having my students do this? How will this assignment allow them to show what they’ve learned?”

I’m looking forward to reading the articles we received.


  • At Tue Oct 03, 08:54:00 PM 2006, Blogger Karl Fisch said…

    "Winger 2.0" - I love it!

    Well, I certainly think there is a little bit of Zen in constructivism - you know it when you achieve it, but sometimes it's hard to define. We will certainly give you some articles down the road that have some more specific classroom examples, but I imagine they will still just whet your appetite. Maybe as a group (both C1 and C2) we can end up writing our own textbook (most likely on a wiki, of course) - of good examples of constructivist teaching.

    I agree that one of the best outcomes of discussing grading/assessment is that it forces us to reexamine the assignments and assessment we are currently giving. As Tony says, even if it doesn't end up changing the culture in your classroom (although he obviously believes it will), he thinks it changes us as teachers and therefore has a large positive effect on our students.

  • At Wed Oct 11, 06:05:00 PM 2006, Blogger C. Makovsky said…

    I've decided that I'll keep my old grading categories, but that I'll write more comments on Infinite Campus so that parents can see why a student got the grade he/she got. When a student fails, I make a quick comment about why. Also, I write fairly detailed descriptions of each assignment and sometimes even include rubrics. I've always been fairly lenient when it comes to late papers. I assign a "grade" called "Met deadline." If the paper is turned in on time, the kid gets 10 points. That way, I don't need to deduct points from the paper if if is handed in late.


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